Trust is the very basis of successful sales execution. Without trust your customers are unlikely to be committed to the sales process, resulting in a sales pipeline which is patchy, unpredictable, impossible to forecast and therefore hard to strategise.
Replacing luck with trust
Many sales professionals are likely to find themselves in the position of this particular salesman, who for the purpose of this article will be called ‘Gregory’.
Gregory was convinced a big deal would come his way; he hoped for this deal and was counting on the opportunity, which he needed to make his target. He had a few deals in the pipeline, but the others had slipped yet again.
Last week his prospect told him everything looked good and that the deal would be signed before the end of the month, but this morning he received a short e-mail from another department stating that another project had been given priority.
Things suddenly looked very bad for Gregory. How could he ever get close to his target like this? How would he tell his Sales Director? Why couldn’t he just be lucky for once?
I’ve seen this scenario countless times over the years.
Unfortunately, these kinds of bad surprises happen to salespeople all too often. What Gregory and many others experience is the result of failing to build enough trust and commitment with their prospect during the early stages of the sales or buying process.
Yes, trust building is indeed the biggest challenge when it comes to the acquisition game.
But it gets even more complicated when a prospect appears to be a complex buying organisation with multiple stakeholders across different departments. When these departments have different interests and stakes in the buying process, sales invariably get complicated.
You might not just sell to one person within the prospect organisation, but may might need to address all the different buyer-stakeholders in order to get that all-important buy-in.
When these buyers have interests that are not immediately visible to you, and when you fail to address these needs altogether in your sales-offer, you get into trouble – just like Gregory did. The challenge of multiple stakeholders Did you know that on average 7.1* people are involved in a B2B purchasing decision?
This means that sales people need to look much further than their usual contact. In many sales situations these days, ultimate approval doesn’t come from one single decision maker but a ‘buying committee’, whose interests need to be taken into account when formulating a successful sales pitch.
Naturally, the more stakeholders out of this buying committee you fail to address – with their own specific needs and interests – the higher your risk of failure.
Therefore, in order to maximise the chances of sales success, a salesperson needs to establish a thorough and firm understanding of all people (and their needs) involved in the buying process and gain a firm insight into how you can solve their requirements effectively and efficiently.
Besides providing them with everything they need to know about your solutions, prices, terms and conditions, you also need to deep-dive in your prospect’s market and organisation and understand every individual stake of each buyer within your prospect organisation.
After you finally got past the first gate-keeper and followed-through in the sales process, it would be shame to fall down at this critical next hurdle.
Many of the sales people I encounter have too little insight in what is happening on the buying side. Their focus is so much on their own process, bullishness or fears that they forget to understand what is happening on the prospect’s side.
Establishing a sufficient level of trust is often the furthest consideration from the minds of salespeople, but it is the only thing that matters when it comes to acquisition.
This gets even more complicated when trust needs to be established between the seller and a multitude of stakeholders on the buying side. After all, who said a sales job was easy?
Three steps to building trust I’m often asked how salespeople can build deeper levels of trust with their prospects.
Although there is no quick fix to this, there are three key-dimensions that function as a vital stepping-stone towards achieving the trust level that is needed to initiate and maintain a successful sales pipeline:
1. Integrity Values and Purpose
Ask yourself; why do you come to sell? What is your intention? Is it just ‘to make quick money’ or is your sales effort coming from a firm belief that you can help your customer to achieve a better business and overcome challenges?
– Understanding your core values and motivation is essential to delivering an authentic approach to sales.
2. Relevancy and Business Value
How knowledgeable are you with regard to the prospect’s working environment, needs, and challenges? Do you match the prospect’s needs with solutions that adequately solve their problems?
Are you able to communicate and substantiate the business value of the solutions to the different stakeholders?
– Achieving all of these adequately is critical to reaching the final acceptance stage of the sales process.
3. Customer Advocacy
Do you truly guide your prospect, offer new insights that reframe thinking towards solutions and co-ensure there is internal alignment?
Do you offer a clear view and vision of what exactly is required to gain the benefits the prospect needs and get closer to achieving their targets by working with them as a team?
Those who view their relationship with prospects as a partnership rather than simply a buyer-supplier arrangement are far more likely to achieve the trust levels needed to seal the deal.
Transforming into an all-important ‘trusted advisor’, into almost an extension of the prospect’s buying committee, can only happen when trust is created and consistently built upon going forward.
Quality over quantity
Relevancy is a vital factor in the trust-building process, which is why I always advise salespeople to work on a quality process as part of their sales prospecting. Taking time to prepare adequately before approaching a prospect will ensure you gain all the necessary insight you need to establish a common ground from the onset.
Seek out information on how the prospect buys, who is involved in the buying process and anything else that may influence how you shape your approach.
Don’t get in trouble like Gregory. If you invest in understanding your customer and initiate trust from the very onset, you will be more confident in executing sales and delivering long term business value to your prospects.
By putting trust at the core of your prospecting activities, hitting your targets need no longer be simply a case of luck.
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